I think one key to a successful Early Childhood Classroom is to have great partnership. There are two kinds of partners that are key to any teacher…
The parents are the most important partners. It’s important to work side by side with parents in order to best serve their children. The way to successfully make this team work is through open communication. When parents communicate struggles they are having at home, we can understand behaviors we may be seeing at school. If something is working at school, we can communicate that to parents, and vice versa. It’s important for both parties to know what’s going on with a child to best meet his/her needs.
Parents: I want to hear from you ways that you’d like to see teachers partnering with you for your child’s success!
It is important for a teacher to have a strong team that he/she works with. In a child care center, this usually means 2 or more teachers, and the Center Director(s). In a School District, it might be 2 or more teachers, Supervisors, and an Early Childhood Team, that supports teachers with behavior concerns, learning needs of specific children, ordering supplies, etc.. Staff meetings in both cases are an opportunities for teachers to share ideas and concerns.
At the Center I work at, most classrooms have a team of 2 teachers that work together, with at least one “floating” Assistant Teacher that gives the teachers their days off. The co-teachers decide how they want their classroom to run, and plan lessons/activities together. Our Directors are there to support us, as well as take care of all the “behind the scenes” stuff. My journey there has been interesting… I started as a float, then took over the 4-5 year old room. I didn’t have a partner for a while. Even when I did, I usually did most of the lesson planning. I feel like I am pretty good at planning lessons, writing newsletters, and creating environments, so I didn’t mind doing that. My partners were great at supporting me with classroom management, carrying out activities, etc. I taught in that class for about a year and a half, and then decided to “try” doing an in-home daycare. After a year, I realized I belong in the more structured environment of a school setting. I came back to the Center as a float again. I worked in the 2 1/2 -3 year old classroom (that I am currently teaching in) while another teacher was on maternity leave. Then, I had a class from Jan – June of mixed ages 3-5. That was an interesting experiment. It was lots of fun, but had its difficulties. Again, I had no partner. In June, I went back to floating, but stayed in the 2-3 year old rooms most of the time. I am now Lead Teacher in a classroom, with no official co-teacher. I do have a consistent “Float” in my room though. My goal is for the two of us to work together as a team, which we do pretty well.
Like parents, it’s important for teaching partners to have open communication with each other. When one teacher needs something from the other, they need to be able to let each other know. Teachers should have a similar philosophy on how their class should be run, goals for the children in the classroom, etc. If both teachers are on the same page, the classroom will run most effectively. Children learn best in a classroom that is set up with plenty of age appropriate activities (with some challenging ones as well), clear expectations, and teachers who work as a team. We are there to facilitate their learning, offer lesson plans that excite children to want to learn more about new topics. We are there to keep them safe while they explore, and offer plenty of opportunities for said exploration.
Another important partnership in some classrooms is that of Mentoring Teacher – Student Teacher. When I get to take on the role of Mentoring Teacher, I am in heaven! I love mentoring students and other teachers. When I know someone is watching my every move, I am a better teacher! It’s good to have to force myself to be completely aware of how I am handling a behavior problem, misuse of classroom materials, or even delivering lessons. Would I want other teachers to act like me? Would I want MY child treated that way? Most of the time, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, being human, I make mistakes on occasion. The great thing about mentoring (or having a great relationship with your co-teacher), is there is someone to talk mistakes over with. You can bounce ideas off each other of how to handle the situation differently next time.
I read a review on a Documentary that I would like to see. It’s called Waiting for Superman. It sounds like an interesting documentary on changing the education system. The article/review makes some good points that follow my philosophy… some of the points made seem to fit with what I wrote in this blog! How validating!